The Nature Explore Classroom at
At Discovery School and Children’s Discovery Center, the Reggio Emilia approach to education is incorporated into our teaching techniques.
One of the pivotal aspects of the Reggio philosophy is the role of the classroom. Loris Malaguzzi describes how educators should view the classroom as a ” living organism, a place of shared relationships among the children, the teachers, and the parents and the feeling of belonging in a world that is alive, welcoming and authentic.” The layout of the environment in which students learn can promote relationships, communication, collaboration, and exploration. When students feel a connection to their environment, they feel confident to try new things.
The more I learned and practiced the Reggio Emilia Philosophy with my students, I began to feel passionate about creating a space that could ignite the imaginations of children and would foster their natural instinct to explore and learn! After months of thinking, planning, dreaming, researching, sketching, building, cleaning, fixing, prepping, organizing and reorganizing it was finally time to stand back and watch the students just “BE and DO” in the Outdoor Classroom.
The Mud Kitchen: The idea to create an outdoor kitchen came from the need to promote more role-playing, storytelling and dramatic reenactments in their play. Not only has this area fulfilled all expectations, it has surpassed them! The students care about the kitchen supplies and take it upon themselves to “wash and dry” the pans and utensils as well as set the table before leaving the area. Their communication and problem-solving skills have progressed and their manners have improved through this type of play.
Writing and Research Area: Our Writing and Research Area has become a popular spot for the students to meet during our scheduled outdoor time. The students, equipped with pencils and their planners, report to the tables in this area and refer to the outdoor calendar to record the date and make a note of any special classes for the day like Art or Chapel. If we have a field trip or special visitor planned, those “appointments” are written down as well. Also in this area, the class Weather Watcher records weather. The important skills of collecting and recording data are learned and practiced daily. Not only are they improving math skills, but they are also practicing their skills of observation and prediction. Based on the type of weather for the day, we discuss ways to protect the space. If the students predict rain, they might decide to put the outdoor cushions away or place some of the wooden building pieces under the wooden cover. We also discuss the appropriate type of clothing and outerwear for the season’s temperatures. When the students have concluded their Morning Meeting, they often use this area to search for bugs. They tip over the stump stools and collect specimens to feed to our class frog. Often times, students bring papers outside for sketching or tracing too.
The Building Platform: The Building Platform has proven to be an area for imaginative play as well as trials in engineering! The students have mostly enjoyed putting their ideas to work while building pirate ships, bridges or caves. The stories from their minds have a place to take shape in this area. Not only are they free to stack, balance, and measure with the materials in this area, they are also encouraged to push the boundaries, to test their theories, and build from their imaginations.
Music: The musical instruments area was popular from the start because it offered the students a chance to make loud noises without limits! They were encouraged to bang, pound, shake and rub different objects to experiment with sound. After the students had plenty of time to explore sounds, many of them attempted to create different rhythms that mimicked songs heard on the radio.
Calming Area: Originally, the intended use for this space was for students who needed a self-imposed break to relax and regroup. It is so important for students to learn their own boundaries when it comes to activities. Following a high energy activity, it can be difficult to calm their bodies and we needed a spot where students could go for just that. The students had their own plans for that spot, however, and we have let them take control. The area meant for relaxing has actually been used for imaginative play. While some students do take advantage of the outdoor cushions and shade, many of them bring materials from other areas and take part in pretend play. Old bike wheels, loose part trays, light and airy fabrics get transformed into zoo walls, curtains, animal troughs and more! It just proves how powerful a child’s mind can be. It is this very area of the outdoor classroom that proves the importance of open-ended, free-from-judgment, uninhibited learning! Even the most well-thought-out plans do not always meet the needs of the students but when you give those students the ability to create what they need, everyone wins.
The responses from the students and families have been wonderful. The Kindergarten and PreK students have opened their minds and hearts to the idea of a different way of learning. Our students deserve to experience life and learning in an environment that nurture’s wonder and supports exploration and discovery!
8011 Dutch Road
Waterville, OH 43566